It’s likely been ingrained in you that warming up is a necessity before strength training to enhance performance and attenuate injury risk.
You’ve also likely been told that cooling down is helpful to improve recovery and reduce injury risk.
However, several proposed benefits appear to be based primarily on belief rather than strong evidence (at least currently). For instance, active cool-downs (e.g., stretching) appear to be no better than passive cool-downs (i.e., not doing anything) in reducing muscle soreness and preventing injuries.
So, if you want to save some time, here are some considerations and suggestions:
- General warm-up—aimed at increasing body temperature (e.g., cardio)—probably isn’t essential
- Restrict the warm-up to exercise-specific warm-ups, such as doing the same exercise but at a lighter weight
- Specific warm-ups might be more useful if you’re planning to train with heavy loads (e.g., an exercise or weight that you can only do ≤8 reps in 1 set)
- You can stretch if you like to stretch or if you want to increase your flexibility, but remember that strength training through full range of motion can be as effective as stretching for improving range of motion long-term
- Cool-down probably isn’t essential.
- Afonso et al. (2021) (PMID: 34025459)
- Iversen et al. (2021) (PMID: 34125411)
- Van Hooren & Peake (2018) (PMID: 29663142)
- Image from thoroughlyreviewed.com